Running with Scissors: A Memoir

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Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was ...

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Running with Scissors: A Memoir

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Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances. Augusten Burroughs is the author of the novel Sellevision and Dry, a sequel to Running with Scissors. He lives in New York City. Running with Scissors is the true story of a boy whose mother (a poet with delusions of Anne Sexton) gave him away to be raised by her unorthodox psychiatrist who bore a striking resemblance to Santa Claus. So at the age of twelve, Burroughs found himself amidst Victorian squalor living with the doctor's bizarre family, and befriending a pedophile who resided in the backyard shed. The story of an outlaw childhood where rules were unheard of, and the Christmas tree stayed up all year round, where Valium was consumed like candy, and if things got dull an electroshock- therapy machine could provide entertainment. The funny, harrowing and bestselling account of an ordinary boy's survival under the most extraordinary circumstances.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
To say that Augusten Burroughs had an unusual childhood would be an understatement. His eccentric mother -- a poet -- left him in the care of her shrink, a man who might have benefitted from a little therapy himself. Somehow, Augusten survived, and the result is this memoir, one both horrifying and hysterical.
From the Publisher
"I just finished reading the most amazing book. Running with Scissors is hilarious, freaky-deaky, berserk, controlled, transcendent, touching, affectionate, vengeful, all-embracing....It makes a good run at blowing every other [memoir] out of the water." —Carolyn See, The Washington Post

"Funny and rich with child's eye details of adults who have gone off the rails." —The New York Times Book Review

"It is as funny as it is twisted." —GQ

"A hilarious and horrifying memoir." —Los Angeles Times

"Harrowing and hilarious. I haven't laughed this much since David Sedaris's last book." —Haven Kimmel, author of A Girl Named Zippy

"Running with Scissors is a cut above...compelling...the book celebrates Burroughs' resilient, upbeat spirit, which helps him surmount one of the weirder childhoods on record." —USA Today

"The anecdotes can be so flippant, and so insanely funny (quite literally), that the effect is that of a William Burroughs situation comedy." —The New York Times

"Burroughs defies the 'woe is me' stigma of modern memoir with a raucous recounting of his loony teenage years." —Entertainment Weekly

"I was reminded of Roald Dahl's Boy and A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. Augusten Burroughs has produced a memoir that's funny and sharp but also humane, as charming as it is revealing." —Kurt Andersen, author of Turn of the Century

"A memoir that is both horrifying and mordantly funny." —San Francisco Chronicle

"Burroughs has memorialized his bizarre childhood showing off a dark wit that often rivals that 0of David Sedaris—while telling a true story that would make even Sedaris cringe." —New York Magazine

"Burroughs tempers the pathos with sharp riotous humor... Edgier, but reminiscent of Dave Eggers' A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, this is a survival story readers won't forget." —Booklist

Janet Maslin
...a bawdy, outrageous, often hilarious account...In keeping with this book's dauntless comic timing, this guy doesn't miss a beat.
The New York Times
GENRE magazine
If you love Sedaris, you'll fold over laughing with Running With Scissors, a witty and hilarious memoir.
Out Now
This is an American Grotesque...; that the tale is true only adds to the hilarity—and the horror.
Phillip Lopate
This book is hilarious-because when things get that awful you have to laugh. Touching, troubling and...generously entertaining.
Maxine Kumin
Engrossing and horripilating, this memoir has moments of intoxicating hilarity and grief.
A. L. Kennedy
A wonderful autobiography...Beautifully written, generous, twisted—an American dream I could warm to.
Publishers Weekly
"Bookman gave me attention. We would go for long walks and talk about all sorts of things. Like how awful the nuns were in his Catholic school when he was a kid and how you have to roll your lips over your teeth when you give a blowjob," writes Burroughs (Sellevision) about his affair, at age 13, with the 33-year-old son of his mother's psychiatrist. That his mother sent him to live with her shrink (who felt that the affair was good therapy for Burroughs) shows that this is not just another 1980s coming-of-age story. The son of a poet with a "wild mental imbalance" and a professor with a "pitch-black dark side," Burroughs is sent to live with Dr. Finch when his parents separate and his mother comes out as a lesbian. While life in the Finch household is often overwhelming (the doctor talks about masturbating to photos of Golda Meir while his wife rages about his adulterous behavior), Burroughs learns "your life [is] your own and no adult should be allowed to shape it for you." There are wonderful moments of paradoxical humor Burroughs, who accepts his homosexuality as a teen, rejects the squeaky-clean pop icon Anita Bryant because she was "tacky and classless" as well as some horrifying moments, as when one of Finch's daughters has a semi-breakdown and thinks that her cat has come back from the dead. Beautifully written with a finely tuned sense of style and wit the occasional clich ("Life would be fabric-softener, tuna-salad-on-white, PTA-meeting normal") stands out anomalously this memoir of a nightmarish youth is both compulsively entertaining and tremendously provocative. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
This memoir by Burroughs is certainly unique; among other adventures, he recounts how his mother's psychiatrist took her to a motel for therapy, while at home the kids chopped a hole in the roof to make the kitchen brighter. Not all craziness, though, this account reveals the feelings of sadness and dislocation this unusual upbringing brought upon Burroughs and his friends. His early family life was characterized by his parents' break-and-destroy fights, and after his parents separated, his mother practically abandoned Burroughs in hopes of achieving fame as a poet. At 12, he went to live with the family (and a few patients) of his mother's psychiatrist. At the doctor's home, children did as they wished: they skipped school, ate whatever they wanted, engaged in whatever sexual adventures came along, and trashed the house and everything in it, while the mother watched TV and occasionally dusted. Burroughs has written an entertaining yet horrifying account that isn't for the squeamish: the scatological content and explicit homosexual episodes may limit its appeal. Recommended for the adventurous seeking an unsettling experience among the grotesque. Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Autobiography of adolescent trauma depicting the author's quest for survival in an unorthodox family alongside his quest for fabulous hair. Copywriter turned novelist Burroughs (Sellevision, 2000) captures in his memoir a particular cultural moment in the late 1970s and early '80s when the baby boomers' flaccid if-it-feels-good-do-it ethos soured. "My parents loathed each other and the life they had built together," he writes. The estrangement of his increasingly manic-depressive poet mother and cold, alcoholic father flung young Burroughs into the strange Northampton, Massachusetts, household of family psychiatrist Dr. Finch, a jolly and permissive yet ominous figure who advocated intense therapy and nonjudgmental fathering. At his mother's insistence, Burroughs spent much of his adolescence living among the Finches. The fussy, hairdressing-obsessed boy was unnerved by their squalid household but became close with irascible daughters Hope and Natalie, participating in their substance abuse and delinquency, helping them wreck the Finches' dilapidated Victorian house. The doctor's pseudo-parenting encouraged the boy's sexual relationship with creepy, manipulative, much older Neil Bookman, Finch's "adopted son." When the doctor coached Burroughs to stage a suicide attempt in order to get out of going to school, our hero began to wonder whether life with the Finches would equip him, or Hope, or Natalie with mainstream survival skills-eventually, surprisingly enough, it did. Burroughs strongly delineates the tangled, perverse bonds among these high-watt eccentrics and his childhood self, aspiring to a grotesque comic merger of John Waters and David Sedaris. However, his under-edited prose isfrequently uninspired and rambling, relying on consumer-culture references (from Clairol, Pat Benatar, Brooke Shields, Captain and Tennille, Sea Monkeys, the Brady Bunch, to Magic Eight Balls, etc., etc.) and repetitive sequences of abrasive dialogue ("Stop antagonizing me. . . . Just stop transferring all this anger onto me"). Presumably he garnered these details from his oft-mentioned journal, but they fail to deepen the characters. An unusual upbringing, reconstituted into a very usual memoir.
Library Journal
What sane mother would help her son fake a suicide to get out of school? Burroughs’s mother did and then placed him in the home of an unscrupulous psychiatrist and his unruly family. This irreverently funny memoir survived a lawsuit claiming slander to become a popular book club selection. Some readers may find language and sexual accounts offensive. (LJ 6/1/02)

(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312422271
  • Publisher: Picador
  • Publication date: 6/1/2003
  • Edition description: First
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 60,145
  • Product dimensions: 5.44 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.89 (d)

Meet the Author

Augusten Burroughs is the author of Dry, Magical Thinking: True Stories, Possible Side Effects, A Wolf at the Table and You Better Not Cry. He is also the author of the novel Sellevision, which is currently in development for film. The film version of Running with Scissors, directed by Ryan Murphy and produced by Brad Pitt, was released in October 2006 and starred Joseph Cross, Brian Cox, Annette Bening (nominated for a Golden Globe for her role), Alec Baldwin and Evan Rachel Wood. Augusten's writing has appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world including The New York Times and New York Magazine. In 2005 Entertainment Weekly named him one of “The 25 Funniest People in America.” He resides in New York City and Western Massachusetts.


Although Augusten Burroughs achieved moderate success with his debut novel, Sellevision, it was his 2002 memoir, Running with Scissors, that catapulted him into the literary stratosphere. Indeed, few writers have spun a bizarre childhood and eccentric personal life into literary gold with as much wit and panache as Burroughs, whose harrowing accounts of dysfunction and addiction are offset by an acerbic humor readers and critics find irresistible.

Born Christopher Robison (he changed his name when he turned 18), Burroughs is the son of an alcoholic father who abandoned his family and a manic-depressive mother who fancied herself a poet in the style of Anne Sexton. At age 12, he was farmed out to his mother's psychiatrist, a deeply disturbed -- and disturbing -- man whose medical license was ultimately revoked for gross misconduct. In Running with Scissors, Burroughs recounts his life with the pseudonymous Finch family as an experience tantamount to being raised by wolves. The characters he describes are unforgettable: children of assorted ages running wild through a filthy, dilapidated Victorian house, totally unfettered by rules or inhibitions; a variety of deranged patients who take up residence with the Finches seemingly at will; and a 33-year-old pedophile who lives in the backyard shed and initiates an intense, openly homosexual relationship with the 13-year-old Burroughs right under the doctor's nose.

That he is able to wring humor and insight out of this shocking scenario is testimony to Burroughs's writing skill. Upon its publication in 2002, Scissors was hailed as "mordantly funny" (Los Angeles Times), "hilarious" (San Francisco Chronicle), and "sociologically suggestive and psychologically astute" (The New York Times). The book became a #1 bestseller and was turned into a 2006 movie starring Annette Bening, Alec Baldwin, and Joseph Fienes.

[Although the doctor who "raised" Burroughs was never named in the memoir, six members of the real-life family sued the author and his publisher for defamation, claiming that whole portions of the book were fabricated. Burroughs insisted that the book was entirely accurate but agreed in the 2007 settlement to change the wording of the author's note and acknowledgement in future editions of the book. He was never required to change a single word of the memoir itself.]

Since Running with Scissors, Burroughs has mined snippets of his life for more bestsellers, including further installments of his memoir (Dry, A Wolf at the Table) and several well-received collections of razor-sharp essays. His writing continues to appear in newspapers and magazines around the world, and he is a regular contributor to National Public Radio's Morning Edition.

Good To Know

Some fun and fascinating outtakes from our interview with Burroughs:

"When I was very young, maybe six or seven, I used to make little books out of construction paper and wallpaper. Then I'd sew the spine of the book with a needle and thread. Only after I had the actual book did I sit down with a pencil and write the text. I actually still have one of these little books and it's titled, obliquely, Little Book."

"Well, all of a sudden I am obsessed with PMC. For those of you who think I am speaking about plastic plumbing fixtures, I am not. PMC stands for Precious Metal Clay. And it works just like clay clay. You can shape it into anything you want. But after you fire it, you have something made of solid 22k gold or silver. So you want to be very careful. Anyway, I plan to make dog tags. So there's something."

"I'm a huge fan of English shortbread cookies, of anything English really. I very nearly worship David Strathairn. And I'm afraid that if I ever return to Sydney, Australia, I may not return."

"I will never refuse potato chips or buttered popcorn cooked in one of those thingamajigs you crank on top of the stove."

"And my politics could be considered extreme, as I truly believe that people who molest or otherwise abuse children should be buried in pits. And I do believe our country has been served by white male presidents quite enough for the next few hundred years. I really could go on and on here, so I'd best stop."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Augusten X. Burroughs
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York and western Massachusetts
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 23, 1965
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    1. Education:
      No formal education beyond elementary school
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Running with Scissors Acknowledgments

Gratitude doesn’t begin to describe it: Jennifer Enderlin, Christopher Schelling, John Murphy, Gregg Sullivan, Kim Cardascia, Michael Storrings, and everyone at St. Martin’s Press. Thank you: Lawrence David, Suzanne Finnamore, Robert Rodi, Bret Easton Ellis, Jon Pepoon, Lee Lodes, Jeff Soares, Kevin Weidenbacher, Lynda Pearson, Lona Walburn, Lori Greenburg, John DePretis, and Sheila Cobb. I would also like to express my appreciation to my mother and father for, no matter how inadvertently, giving me such a memorable childhood. Additionally, I would like to thank the real-life members of the family portrayed in this book for taking me into their home and accepting me as one of their own. I recognize that their memories of the events described in this book are different than my own. They are each fine, decent, and hard-working people. The book was not intended to hurt the family. Both my publisher and I regret any unintentional harm resulting from the publishing and marketing of Running with Scissors. Most of all, I would like to thank my brother for demonstrating, by example, the importance of being wholly unique.


My mother is standing in front of the bathroom mirror smelling polished and ready; like Jean Nate, Dippity Do and the waxy sweetness of lipstick. Her white, handgun-shaped blow-dryer is lying on top of the wicker clothes hamper, ticking as it cools. She stands back and smoothes her hands down the front of her swirling, psychedelic Pucci dress, biting the inside of her cheek.

"Damn it," she says, "something isn't right."

Yesterday she went to the fancy Chopping Block salon in Amherst with its bubble skylights and ficus trees in chrome planters. Sebastian gave her a shag.

"That hateful Jane Fonda," she says, fluffing her dark brown hair at the crown. "She makes it look so easy." She pinches her sideburns into points that accentuate her cheekbones.

People have always said she looks like a young Lauren Bacall, especially in the eyes.

I can't stop staring at her feet, which she has slipped into treacherously tall red patent-leather pumps. Because she normally lives in sandals, it's like she's borrowed some other lady's feet. Maybe her friend Lydia's feet. Lydia has teased black hair, boyfriends and an above-ground pool. She wears high heels all the time, even when she's just sitting out back by the pool in her white bikini, smoking menthol cigarettes and talking on her olive-green Princess telephone. My mother only wears fancy shoes when she's going out, so I've come to associate them with a feeling of abandonment and dread.

I don't want her to go. My umbilical cord is still attached and she's pulling at it. I feel panicky.

I'm standing in the bathroom next to her because I need to be with her for as long as I can. Maybe she is going to Hartford, Connecticut. Or Bradley Field International Airport. I love the airport, the smell of jet fuel, flying south to visit my grandparents.

I love to fly.


When I grow up, I want to be the one who opens those cabinets above the seats, who gets to go into the small kitchen where everything fits together like a shiny silver puzzle. Plus, I like uniforms and I would get to wear one, along with a white shirt and a tie, even a tie-tack in the shape of airplane wings. I would get to serve peanuts in small foil packets and offer people small plastic cups of soda. "Would you like the whole can?" I would say. I love flying south to visit my grandparents and I've already memorized almost everything these flight attendants say. "Please make sure that you have extinguished all smoking materials and that your tray table is in its upright and locked position." I wish I had a tray table in my bedroom and I wish I smoked, just so I could extinguish my smoking materials.

"Okay, I see what's the matter," my mother says. She turns to me and smiles. "Augusten, hand me that box, would you?"

Her long, frosted beige nail points to the box of Kotex maxi pads on the floor next to the toilet bowl. I grab the box and hand it to her.

She takes two pads from the box and sets it on the floor at her feet. I notice that the box is reflected in the side of her shoe, like a small TV. Carefully, she peels the paper strip off the back of one of the pads and slides it through the neck of her dress, placing it on top of her left shoulder. She smoothes the silk over the pad and puts another one on the right side. She stands back.

"What do you think of that!" she says. She is delighted with herself. It's as if she has drawn a picture and placed it on her own internal refrigerator door.

"Neat," I say.

"You have a very creative mother," she says. "Instant shoulder pads."

The blow-dryer continues to tick like a clock, counting down the seconds. Hot things do that. Sometimes when my father or mother comes home, I will go down and stand near the hood of the car to listen to it tick, moving my face in close to feel the heat.

"Are you coming upstairs with me?" she says. She takes her cigarette from the clamshell ashtray on the back of the toilet. My mother loves frozen baked stuffed clams, and she saves the shells to use as ashtrays, stashing them around the house.

I am fixated on the dryer. The vent holes on the side have hairs stuck in them, small hairs and white lint. What is lint? How does it find hair dryers and navels? "I'm coming."

"Turn off the light," she says as she walks away, creating a small whoosh that smells sweet and chemical. It makes me sad because it's the smell she makes when she's leaving.

"Okay," I say. The orange light from the dehumidifier that sits next to the wicker laundry hamper is looking at me, and I look back at it. Normally it would terrify me, but because my mother is here, it is okay. Except she is walking fast, has already walked halfway across the family room floor, is almost at the fireplace, will be turning around the corner and heading up the stairs and then I will be alone in the dark bathroom with the dehumidifier eye, so I run. I run after her, certain that something is following me, chasing me, just about to catch me. I run past my mother, running up the stairs, using my legs and my hands, charging ahead on all fours. I make it to the top and look down at her.

She climbs the stairs slowly, deliberately, reminding me of an actress on the way to the stage to accept her Academy Award. Her eyes are trained on me, her smile all mine. "You run up those stairs just like Cream."

Cream is our dog and we both love her. She is not my father's dog or my older brother's. She's most of all not my older brother's since he's sixteen, seven years older than I, and he lives with roommates in Sunderland, a few miles away. He dropped out of high school because he said he was too smart to go and he hates our parents and he says he can't stand to be here and they say they can't control him, that he's "out of control" and so I almost never see him. So Cream doesn't belong to him at all. She is mine and my mother's. She loves us most and we love her. We share her. I am just like Cream, the golden retriever my mother loves.

I smile back at her.

I don't want her to leave.

Cream is sleeping by the door. She knows my mother is leaving and she doesn't want her to go either. Sometimes, I wrap aluminum foil around Cream's middle, around her legs and her tail and then I walk her through the house on a leash. I like it when she's shiny, like a star, like a guest on the Donnie and Marie Show.

Cream opens her eyes and watches my mother, her ears twitching, then she closes her eyes again and exhales heavily. She's seven, but in dog years that makes her forty-nine. Cream is an old lady dog, so she's tired and just wants to sleep.

In the kitchen my mother takes her keys off the table and throws them into her leather bag. I love her bag. Inside are papers and her wallet and cigarettes and at the bottom, where she never looks, there is loose change, loose mints, specs of tobacco from her cigarettes. Sometimes I bring the bag to my face, open it and inhale as deeply as I can.

"You'll be long asleep by the time I come home," she tells me. "So good night and I'll see you in the morning."

"Where are you going?" I ask her for the zillionth time.

"I'm going to give a reading in Northampton," she tells me. "It's a poetry reading at the Broadside Bookstore."

My mother is a star. She is just like that lady on TV, Maude. She yells like Maude, she wears wildly colored gowns and long crocheted vests like Maude. She is just like Maude except my mother doesn't have all those chins under her chins, all those loose expressions hanging off her face. My mother cackles when Maude is on. "I love Maude," she says. My mother is a star like Maude.

"Will you sign autographs?"

She laughs. "I may sign some books."

My mother is from Cairo, Georgia. This makes everything she says sound like it went through a curling iron. Other people sound flat to my ear; their words just hang in the air. But when my mother says something, the ends curl.

Where is my father?

"Where is your father?" my mother says, checking her watch. It's a Timex, silver with a black leather strap. The face is small and round. There is no date. It ticks so loud that if the house is quiet, you can hear it.

The house is quiet. I can hear the ticking of my mother's watch.

Outside, the trees are dark and tall, they lean in toward the house, I imagine because the house is bright inside and the trees crave the light, like bugs.

We live in the woods, in a glass house surrounded by trees; tall pine trees, birch trees, ironwoods.

The deck extends from the house into the trees. You can stand on it and reach and you might be able to pull a leaf off a tree, or a sprig of pine.

My mother is pacing. She is walking through the living room, behind the sofa to look out the large sliding glass door down to the driveway; she is walking around the dining-room table. She straightens the cubed glass salt and pepper shakers. She is walking through the kitchen and out the other door of the kitchen. Our house is very open. The ceilings are very high. There is plenty of room here. "I need high ceilings," my mother always says. She says this now. "I need high ceilings." She looks up.

There is the sound of gravel crackling beneath tires. Then, lights on the wall, spreading to the ceiling, sliding through the room like a living thing.

"Finally," my mother says.

My father is home.

He will come inside the house, pour himself a drink and then go downstairs and watch TV in the dark.

I will have the upstairs to myself. All the windows and the walls and the entire fireplace which cuts straight through the center of the house, both floors; I will have the ice maker in the freezer, the hexagonal espresso pot my mother uses for guests, the black deck, the stereo speakers; all of this contained in so much tall space. I will have it all.

I will walk around and turn lights on and off, on and off. There is a panel of switches on the wall before the hall opens up into two huge, tall rooms. I will switch the spotlights on in the living room, illuminating the fireplace, the sofa. I will switch the light off and turn on the spotlights in the hallway; over the front of the door. I will run from the wall and stand in the spotlight. I will bathe in the light like a star and I will say, "Thank you for coming tonight to my poetry reading."

I will be wearing the dress my mother didn't wear. It is long, black and 100 percent polyester, my favorite fabric because it flows. I will wear her dress and her shoes and I will be her.

With the spotlights aimed right at me, I will clear my throat and read a poem from her book. I will read it with her distinctive and refined Southern inflection.

I will turn off all the lights in the house and go into my bedroom, close the door. My bedroom is deep blue. Bookshelves are attached to the wall with brackets on either side of my window; the shelves themselves are lined with aluminum foil. I like things shiny.

My shiny bookshelves are lined with treasures. Empty cans, their labels removed, their ribbed steel skins polished with silver polish. I wish they were gold. I have rings there, rings from our trip to Mexico when I was five. Also on the shelves: pictures of jewelry cut from magazines, glued to cardboard and propped upright; one of the good spoons from the sterling silver my grandmother sent my parents when they were married; silver my mother hates ("God-awful tacky") and a small collection of nickels, dimes and quarters, each of which has been boiled and polished with silver polish while watching Donnie and Marie or Tony Orlando and Dawn.

I love shiny things, I love stars. Someday, I want to be a star, like my mother, like Maude.

The sliding doors to my closet are covered with mirror squares I bought with my allowance. The mirrors have veins of gold streaking through them. I stuck them to the doors myself.

I will aim my desk lamp into the center of the room and stand in its light, looking at myself in the mirror. "Hand me that box," I will say to my reflection. "Something isn't right here."

Copyright 2002 by Augusten Burroughs

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Table of Contents

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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions

1. What sort of person does Augusten’s mother Deidre initially appear to be? Does your impression of her change throughout Running with Scissors? Does Augusten’s? How?

2. Why does Deidre leave Augusten with Dr. Finch? Did she do the right thing? With whom would Augusten have been better off? Why? What would you have done if you were left with the Finch family?

3. Augusten initially likes Dr. Finch. Do his feelings toward him change? Why? Is Dr. Finch eccentric or crazy? What’s the difference?

4. Augusten sees much of his life in the context of television shows and commercials. Which television shows and commercials were influential to you while growing up? If you had to pick a television show—drama, comedy, or variety series—that best described your own life, which one would it be?

5. The Finch family lives accustomed to chaos and filth. Do you think it’s possible to get used to anything after a while? Explain. Are their things about your way life that might seem strange to other people or other cultures? Have you ever had to adjust to a situation that initially seemed foreign or disturbing to you? Explain.

6. On page 69, Augusten writes, "It was one thing to be gay. But it was something else altogether to seem gay." What do you think he means? Which seems gayer to you: Rock Hudson, Liberace, or metrosexuals? Explain.

7. Augusten writes that "Finch believed that anger was the crux of mental illness" (p. 98). Do you agree with the doctor? Why? Who in Running with Scissors seems genuinely mentally ill? Why?

8. Should Hope be charged with animal cruelty because of her treatment of the cat? Should Augusten and the other Finches be charged as accomplices?

9. Why do you think Natalie and Augusten become best friends? What pulls them apart? Do you believe Deidre’s finally accusation? Explain.

10. What do you think happened to Neil Bookman? From what you know about him and the 1970s, make up your own epilogue for Neil.

11. Dr. Finch believes that children should choose their own parents. Do you agree? Who does Augusten eventually choose? Did he make the right decision? Why? Are their any circumstances under which a child should disown his or her family? Explain.

12. Do you see Running with Scissors as a comic or horror story? Both? Explain.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 785 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 17, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Crazy and Inspirational at the same time

    By the age of twelve, Augusten's parents had disintegrated in a mess of alcoholism and delusional psychosis, leaving him with a sense of isolation he is unable to shake. Already school-phobic, he wraps himself in a cocoon of comforting television images and Hollywood fantasies from the late 1970's. When in the course of his mother's treatment Augusten finds himself living with her psychiatrist and his large disorganized family, his struggle for perspective begins. Both disturbing and hilarious at the same time, Burroughs describes the consolation and distress of living in a world where squalor and chaos is so pervasive that it eventually becomes normal. The crux of Augusten's plight is assimilation: to remain in the family and fully integrate their dysfunction into his own life, or to leave and regain control over his future. This is a coming out story of a different kind; while his sexuality is a secondary issue, Augusten still must "come out" and back into functional society.

    Burroughs does a fantastic job describing characters in detail rich enough that the reader immediately acquires intuition with regard to their motives. Because of this, it is easy to understand that these are not simply eccentric people. To see them that way would trivialize the challenge the young Augusten faces. Most poignant was his wildly inappropriate sexual relationship with a man twice his age. Augusten suffers endless losses; his parent's marriage, his mother's sanity, the companionship of his surrogate family, but the realization that his "boyfriend" was gone, leaves him feeling emotionally empty and truly abandoned.

    "Running with Scissors" never seems whiny because Burroughs never lapses into lamentations about another, better life he could have had. When the inevitable comparison does arise, he shrugs it off without a trace of self-pity. Thankfully, there are no self-help references in this book, no mention of the dreaded "recovery" process, and no maudlin scenes describing reconciliation. As a memoir, the narrative can be tricky in places when Burroughs bounces back and forth without chronological markers. In addition, there are a few tertiary characters that come and go, and keeping track of them can be difficult. However, neither of these detracts from the overall effect of the story.

    I finished this wonderful book and admittedly, shed a few tears after the epilogue. Though I think most people will not understand the fragility and isolation of growing up gay, I hope everyone who reads this book will sympathize with the strength of character therein. I thoroughly enjoyed "Running with Scissors" and highly recommend it. If you like this book, you will definitely enjoy Lac Su's memoir, "I Love Yous Are For White People." I'm recommending it here.

    13 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2009

    Not for Children

    The only word I can think of to describe this book would be painful. I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of eighteen. It is very graphic and mostly disturbing. If you are someone who enjoys reading about how messed up a boys life can be then this is a book for you. Augusten went through quite a rough patch from age nine to seventeen. His parents got divorced and neither the mother nor father were mature enough to raise a child. They each had quite a number of problems. The father was an alcoholic and had not a care in the world besides himself. The mother was nothing short of insane. However he seems to luck out and find help from his mothers psychiatrist and finds a sense of family from him. As he tries to understand who he really is he realizes he is gay. Augusten had a very troubling past but seems to have emerged from it confident in his life to come. Anyone who can deal with all that has earned my respect. However I am indifferent on how I feel about this book because it is so disturbing. I had a hard time comprehending how anyone could bear to even live through all he did much less write a book about it. I feel terrible for this young boy, his childhood was nothing short of torture. I also do not understand how this book could be a comedy, a thirteen year old being raped by a thirty three year old is not what I would consider funny. There is some sarcasm throughout the book but I was to disturbed by what was happening to laugh. This was not my kind of book mostly because I usually like more action packed thrillers but it was interesting to say the least. The only thing I took from this book was that no matter what happens in life, when the chips fall you can only control your reaction and make sure it doesn't happen to you.

    9 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2009

    Not funny - just distrubing

    I got this book on the recommendation of a friend. I have never been this disappointed in any book ever. It's not funny - it's just distrubing. What's worse, it tries to justify the molestation of a 13 yr old boy by a trusted 33 yr old man (eventually they become consenting lovers). In what is (I think) supposed to be a touching moment between Augusten and his psychiatrist, the doctor oversees a faked suicide attempt so the child doesn't have to go to school. If this story truly is autobiographical, Burroughs' mother, adopted father, and every other adult in the book should be tried for child abuse.

    5 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2008


    This book was very good. Through most of it. A few of the chapters had such graphic sexuality it took away from the book. I'm sorry but if he had just said he was raped instead of writing a chapter-long summary, I would have been just fine. That said, This book is engrossing and a great read, you just have to stomach it and watch the audience. I'm a mature reader, but 13 was way too young.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2008

    My favorite book ever

    This book pulled me in the minute I started reading. It's so hilarious, you can't help but to want to know what else he's going to say. Eventually, the book becomes more serious dealing with more mature matter. However, it still ties in the humor Burroughs naturally brings into all of his book. I actually feel like I lived through what he has. It's been two days and with my busy schedule, I've managed to read over 250 pages already. It's almost ridiculous and unbelievable, but the obscurity is what makes it so interesting. I wouldn't reccomend this book to anyone under 15 as it deals with very mature things. I promise this story won't let you down, it'll will only leave you wanting more

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2013

    Extremely entertaining

    The author manages to make you laugh at a sad story with his quick wit and sharp tongue. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time. The imagery was so clear and distinctive, the entire book played through my head like a movie. This book does, however, contain semi-graphic sex scenes between the author and an older man, so if you're offended by such, I suggest you read something else.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2012


    One of the most intense books I think I've ever read. Slightly disturbing, but you can't stop reading it. I, personally, really enjoyed it. Very funny at times, and demanding your attention the whole way through. If you want a book that's not like any other you've ever read, and you're open minded, this is definitely for you.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Disturbing account

    Running with Scissors is a disturbing account of a young man's life and self-discovery. The "family" in which he is thrust is dysfunctional and destructive. How he manages to survive is a miracle. The audio book is read by the author which does add to the overall picture. It is quite explicit and definitely not for the average reader.

    The book is a memoir so has no clear ending nor real point other than to shock the reader with its strangeness. Although I found it interesting, I would be hard-pressed to recommend it to anyone.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 17, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    Wonderful Writing

    I loved this book! Augusten pulls you in RIGHT AWAY! I first read Possible Side Effects. Now I want to read EVERYTHING that he has written.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2012

    Dark yet superb

    Just love this author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Very interesting story.

    I would recommend this book - based on the skill of the writer and the bizarre story he tells. I will definitely be reading more from this author.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2012


    Brutal at times, peppered with comedy. Engaging but emotionally draining.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 26, 2011

    Loved it!!!

    He doesn't hold back or try to sugarcoat anything. He is a brilliant author. Read his other books and you will agree. He is my favorite author! Hurry and buy his other books, you will be hooked in no time!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

    Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs

    I had high expectations for this book given it's New York Time's rating and upcoming movie release. However I was very disappointed. The content is just disturbing. I found nothing entertaining at all. Perhaps, this was therapeutic writing for this gentleman, but it's just sad that any child should be raised in such craziness. Frankly more adults than just the doctor should be serving time! At least he was blessed with a survivor mentality and was able to build a life from the rubble.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 13, 2010

    This will make you think

    When I first picked up this book I did not know what to expect. The way the author portrays his characters is magnificent. You feel as if you have a great understanding of them. The plots deals with young Augusten Burroughs at the age of 12, his mentally ill mother sends him away to live with her doctor. Augusten has to go through a very weird child hood, for his mom is too ill to help him and his deadbeat dad does not support him. I love this book because the author makes you laugh and also makes you think about life choices. This book has a weird way of making you laugh, and making you think about your life. By taking a look on how Augusten grows up it makes you think about how much fun and interesting life can be. Running with scissors also has its disturbing parts but it wouldn't be such a great book with out.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2009

    Not as funny as I had expected from reviews

    I must admit that I was expecting more comedy than the tragedy I found in this book. I guess I didn't find much in Augesten Buroughs' life to laugh at; the emotional traumas he experienced growing up weren't funny. The only reason I even finished it was that I had bought it to read on a long plane flight, and was bored. I have not recommended it to anyone.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 20, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Very Different

    I normally don't get a chance to read for enjoyment (usually for research), but when a friend recommended "Running with Scissors" and after reading the reviews I had to make time. I am sure glad I did. It was unlike any book I have ever read before. The people around me, while I was reading it, said they wanted to read it when I was done.
    You will become absorbed from the moment when you pick it up for the first time.
    Great reading!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 28, 2009

    It's a laugh

    I seen the movie before I read the book and I think that they are both equally great. Running With Scissors is a non-stop laugh. I think it had just the right amount of everything to keep you itching to read what's on the next page. I personally didn't want to put the book down once I started reading it! Reading about people's lives usually aren't too interesting or entertaining but with Augusten Burroughs life you could never predict what was going to happen next because everything that happened in his child hood was so bizarre. From making sure every strand of hair was perfect and the creases on his clothes were sharp and fresh looking to wearing his hair down and dirty clothes. All in all I think this is a great book and if you're looking for a laugh and maybe a tear or two this is definitely a book I would recommend.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 11, 2009

    Deeply disturbing

    A friend of mine recommended this book because she said my writings reminded her of this author. After reading this, I'm filled with dread that my stories could be likened to his. It's filthy and horrific. For a child to have lived as he did is shameful. While I respect him for outing his upbringing, I find no humor in it whatsoever.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 14, 2008

    ¿We¿re running all right, running with scissors!¿

    Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs is a wickedly hilarious book. It is the memoir of a young boy, Burroughs, who is living with a psychotic mother and an alcoholic father. He is openly gay at a very young age, but does not fully comprehend what it means to be gay. However, he is convinced that he is because he aspires to be a cosmetologist and run his own ¿hair empire¿. His parent¿s distraught relationship finally ends, much to his dismay, leaving Augusten¿s mother crazier than before. She seeks the help of a local therapist, Dr. Finch. Dr. Finch has his own methods of therapy including bible dipping, a random pointing game that answers life¿s tough questions ¿directly through God¿s word¿, and the open expression of anger to keep insanity away. During one of his mother¿s therapy sessions at the Finch¿s house, his mother tells him that she has turned guardianship of him over to Dr. Finch. Augusten is then forced to live with the Finches, including Dr. Finch¿s wife Agnes, ¿She resembled a candy cane without the red stripes. She leaned forward, head down, as if trying to assume the crash position in an airplane while standing¿. At first, he was not very fond of their sloppy and hostile living environment; however, he eventually grew to love his new ¿roamer¿ lifestyle. He would spend half the time with the Finches and the other half of the time with his mother and her new ¿life partner¿. He develops a relationship with one of the Finch¿s adopted sons, Neil Bookman. They have a rollercoaster romance that ends with a surprising turn of events. Augusten¿s life with the Finches is an amazing and slightly disturbing story, that will keep you on the edge of your seat.<BR/>I found Running with Scissors to be fascinating, peculiar, and impossible to put down. The quirky details that make up this brilliant memoir are eye-catching and different from anything I have ever read before. Burrough¿s honesty throughout the book makes it seem more personal, almost as if he is telling you the story over a cup of coffee. He shares wacky stories about his childhood that seem too crazy to be true. While I was reading, I was wondering how he could have survived all the dangerous and ridiculous things he did in his youth.<BR/> The amount of drama in Augusten¿s everyday life is equivalent to that of a daytime soap. He has to deal with roaches, bad dye jobs, a staged suicide attempt, no parental guidance, and a household full of Dr. Finch¿s patients. He did not have the benefit of a proper upbringing because Dr. Finch thought that a child was old enough to take care of themselves at the age of thirteen. This left Augusten alone to deal with his numerous problems, only to rely on the comfort of his journal and love of writing.<BR/>Burrough¿s memoir is so compelling that you cannot help but sympathize with his overly dramatic alter ego. If you were ever the awkward kid or just the kid trying to find their place in this kooky world we live in, then you will be able to relate to Augusten Burroughs. He will reel you in with his love of shiny objects, Barry Manilow, and the finest in hair care. However, the thing that will keep you reading is his huge heart and desire to be accepted and loved.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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